The Next Round


As I recently reported, one of my latest successes was my feature length romantic comedy screenplay, Soul Mate being selected as a quarterfinalist in the Stage 32 Comedy Writing Contest. Pretty exciting. But let’s see. What would be more exciting? How about if it were selected as a semifinalist? Yes, boys and girls, that’s what I’m telling you. I was notified yesterday. Semifinals!

I am very happy and proud. Not to blow my own horn, but it’s a very good script. I worked extremely hard on it. It’s a unique and very funny story that takes place in my beloved New York. (Hence the photo above)

The story behind the story is pretty interesting too. I had the idea for it in 1988. I had written my first two screenplays when I came up with an idea for a romantic comedy, one of my favorite genres. I told my then girlfriend I was going to write one and she laughed. She informed me that I did not have a romantic bone in my body. Out of fairness, she was pretty much spot on at the time.

I wasn’t ready to write it. So it sat in the back of my mind in a little cabinet where I store my best ideas. Eventually in late 2010, I decided I was ready to write it. I did and here we are. Progressing nicely through a fairly prestigious contest.

Another interesting fact about Soul Mate. After I completed a couple of drafts, I let my ex-girlfriend read it. We have remained friends and I greatly value her opinion. She really liked it and was amazed that I had written it. That was the inspiration for my short comedy, Isn’t It Romantic?, which just won a festival award. Two for one! Not a bad deal.

Finalists will be announced on April 26. Here’s hoping I can make at least one more round. This is almost as much fun as the NHL playoffs. Let’s Go Rangers and Let’s Go Soul Mate!

The First Interview

Yesterday, Cooper and I met with a young reporter from the Danbury News-Times for our interview.  We sat in a Starbucks, sipping ice tea and discussing our lives as artists.  I feel it went well.  We prepared for it, getting together the day before and going over the points we wished to express.  We are leaving nothing to chance.  It’s important to take full advantage of every tool at our disposal.

One of the things that has drawn us together as partners and friends is the fact that we have traveled remarkably similar paths in life.  That was confirmed yesterday.  As we talked about the aspirations and passions we developed as children and how they carried us to the current point in our lives, the reporter commented on that similarity.  It’s funny.  I absolutely don’t believe in fate, but we are amazingly well suited to be creative partners.  Almost like it was designed that way.

We also talked about ISN’T IT ROMANTIC?, how it developed, the work we put in, what we learned and how it’s doing now.  We then discussed MY SPIRITED SISTER. That was our main reason for doing the interview.  We need to get the word out about our upcoming IndieGoGo campaign.  We want to raise more money than last time and make an even better film with better production values.

We talked about the young stars of the upcoming movie.  The three of them appeared in the opening scene of ISN’T IT ROMANTIC?  These girls were amazing, talented, enthusiastic and so full of energy.  They had an impact on everyone who was on set that day.  The veteran actors commented on the effect the kids had on them.

They’ve been studying acting for some time and it shows.  We had no dialogue written for them in the scene, so I told them to improvise. It worked beautifully.  They were comfortable and natural and shared the screen like pros.  The scene really works well and they are completely believable.

Cooper and I are really looking forward to working with them again, this time giving them lead roles.  I’ve said this before, casting is vital.  Choose the right actors and your job as a director becomes much easier.  We did just that on ISN’T IT ROMANTIC? and we’re well on our way to doing it again.

In the interview, we also took the time to acknowledge how pleased with were with the effort we got from the crew on IIR.  We had a mix of experience including people who had never been on a film set.  The enthusiasm was high though and everyone made their contribution.

The reporter thanked us at the end.  He’s young and up and coming and appreciated the opportunity.  We equally appreciated the publicity.  Earlier in our lives, when Cooper was in LA pursuing her acting career and I was in New York doing stand up, neither of us promoted ourselves the way we should have.  A little too humble.  Nothing wrong with humble, but to get anywhere in this business, you’ve got to let the world know you’re here.  That’s what we’re doing now.  We’re talented and dedicated and we’re going to shout it from the rooftops.

The Cast Is Set

This past Sunday, we held auditions in a rented studio in Midtown, right around the corner from The Ed Sullivan Theater.  What a great experience!  I’ve always dreamed of making a movie and now it’s happening.  As an East Coast guy and a native New Yorker, I never had visions of Hollywood.  I’ve always had the desire to shoot on the streets of my home town and at the Kaufman-Astoria Studios in Queens.  I haven’t quite gotten there, yet, but our casting session gave me a little taste.

I was very happy with the caliber of the actors who submitted.  I spent hours watching reels and chose a nice stable to bring in and read for us.  We have our cast set and I am quite pleased.  I had a couple of tough decisions to make and the actors I’ve chosen are going to add greatly to the production.

The most difficult decision I had was in casting the part of “Lance Wilson”.  Lance is a movie star.  Good looking.  A heart throb.  It’s a tricky part to play because Lance has capped teeth and cosmetic surgery and deep inside is still the insecure nebbish.  We needed an actor with the right look and the ability to play it.

It came down to two candidates.  One was a terrific actor, very funny and extremely creative.  Low maintenance. I got the feeling he wouldn’t need a lot of direction.  He didn’t quite have that matinee idol look though.  I was on the fence about bringing him in for that reason, but he was such a good actor, I decided to take a look.  He gave an outstanding audition and impressed all of us.

The other actor was good, but not as good.  He did have a great look.  Truly like a movie star.  I was impressed because he learned the lines.  (I sent all the actors the scenes they would be reading.  I don’t  like cold readings, I want them to have every chance to succeed.)  He didn’t bring the script with him.  My co-star pointed out to me what a risk that is and that an actor really shouldn’t do that.  Honestly, I admired the boldness and confidence.  It’s like something I would do.

It was an incredibly difficult decision.  You love casting the best actor when you can.  Ultimately, we HAD to have a guy the audience will buy as a heart throb.  I chose the lesser actor with the right look.  He was still good and seemed like a nice guy.  I got a good vibe from him.  I feel that I can work with him and get him where he needs to be.

I do feel bad though.  I so wanted to cast the smart, funny guy.  Good looking guys always win.  I feel like I betrayed my own kind.  Nevertheless, I did what was right for the movie and I feel good about that.  As my co-writer pointed out to me, I created the character.  So I had to cast him.

The other two parts are small; two lines each.  I honestly wish they were bigger, the two actors I cast are that good.  The parts are two female movie goers who exit a theater and discuss the film they just saw, which was written and directed by the protagonist.

The first one I knew I wanted when I saw her reel.  She has a lot of experience in short films and I watched her clips about four times.  She is a Kathy Bates type and has a fire that touched me.  Very subtle and natural and she comes across well on camera.  Her audition was dynamite!  She touched me from across the room adding a poignancy to a comedic scene that gave it depth.  Her first take was great, but I had them all do it twice.  The second time I gave them an adjustment to see how they took direction.  She made a very slight, but palpable change that was equal to her first take.  She had a quiet confidence about her as well.  She was in.  It would have taken Meryl Streep walking into that room to change my mind.

The other woman I cast was also very good.  She’s a friend of my co-writer, so I know she is a professional that I can count on.  She was natural, made her adjustment well, and visually will work very well with the other woman.

So, there it is.  We have the cast.  Four excellent actors and me, the comedian who’s basically playing himself.  This is going to work.  I’m proving to be the genius I always knew I was.